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NATO Contributions in Libya


Via Ares, a very interesting breakdown of strike sorties over Libya.  The US had a very high percentage of the early strike sorties, but as you can see that has dropped dramatically, with the French taking on a very high portion of the workload.  Of course, tallying the numbers isn’t everything; different nations use different kinds of ordnance, and contribute in other ways.  We’ll be able to put together a more complete breakdown in the next few weeks as additional data is released.

NATO discloses each day the total number of collective sorties flown in the previous 24 hours and the total of all sorties since the start of OUP, but it does not break it down into national contributions. Such national details can only be found sporadically and from different sources.  National levels of strike sorties flown have fluctuated since NATO took over military operations in Libya on March 31, 2011. The following information matches each country’s most recent number of strike sorties to the number of total strike sorties by that date.

France:  33%, approximately 2,225 strike sorties (out of 6,745 total sorties by August 4)

US:  16%, 801 strike sorties, (out of 5,005 strike sorties by June 30)

Denmark:  11%, dropped 705 bombs (out of the 7,079 missions by August 11)

Britain:  10%, 700 strike sorties (out of 7,223 total sorties by August 15)

Canada:  10%, approximately 324 strike sorties (based on 3,175 NATO strike sorties by May 25)

Italy:  10% (Not applicable until April 27 when Italy committed 4 Tornados for strike sorties)

Norway:  10%, 596 strike sorties (out of the 6,125 missions by August 1, no longer active)

Whatever else we can say about the air campaign (and I’ll have some additional thoughts in tomorrow’s column), it has been a genuinely multinational effort.

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  • Since the US strike sorties were so concentrated in the early days of the operation, and the US estimate covers only the first 3-1/2 months, and not the last 2 months, the final figure will likely be closer to 10% than the 16% reported.

  • MacGyver

    I wonder about measures of multilateralism effort beyond air campaign figures. How many UAE, Qatari, French, British or other forces had military advisors on the ground or provided lethal material support to the rebels? Which African countries allowed lethal support to move across their borders into Libya, and meanwhile closed off their borders to lethal aid bounded for Libyan loyalists? Also, at what point did the situation accelerate into being in the rebels favor? Was there a single tipping point where every regional actor knew the balance had tipped in favor of the rebels?

    I also wonder if France’s sortie numbers are higher because they were willing to strike targets that the NATO chain-of-command would not approve.

  • When was the last time the US was involved in a multi-national military mission in which we provided neither the political leadership in making it happen, nor commanded the overall operation, nor conducted the bulk of the operations?

    World War One?

    The Republican freakout over these facts – demonstrated in the McCain/Graham statement about our “failure to use the full force of our air power” – isn’t ginned up. It represented a very real, substantive objection to Obama’s policy of genuinely integrating the US into the international system (just like the objection many of them had to the New START treaty). They want us to be a kind of rogue state, and view such an integration as unwisely restraining us from pursuing our interests, and as a threat to our sovereignty.

    • In re “bulk of the operations,” comparing the scale of the Eastern Front to the Western Front in WWII Europe is instructive.

      • But we didn’t fight on the Eastern front. Nor in eastern China/Manchuria.

        Where we fought in World War Two, it was very much an American show.

  • Charlie Sweatpants

    After both the Bosnia and Kosovo air campaigns in the 1990s there was quite a bit of talk about the Air Force and the Navy being surprised at the European inability to maintain serious air operations around the clock, even for campaigns of just a few weeks duration. It’ll be interesting to see if the much higher proportion of European (and Canadian) participation here is the result of:

    A) American air assets being spread much thinner in 2011 than in the 1990s.

    B) Increased non-American NATO air capabilities

    C) Changes in targeting philosophies or differences in target availability in Libya vis-a-vis Kosovo/Bosnia.

    D) Some combination of all of the above.

    It’s much too soon to chalk this one up as a post-Soviet NATO win, but through six months it’s looking about as good as it could. Presumably bases are off the table (and wouldn’t be much use considering Libya’s proximity to Europe), but the new Libyan government’s eventual security relationship with NATO (if any) will be a fascinating test case as well.

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